BOSTON The cigar was planted in the winning smile of "Larry Legend," his right arm wrapped around the man so known for firing up a stogie when victory was theirs.
This was certainly one of those moments. Above the late Red Auerbach in a portrait of championship cheer in the May 15, 1981, editions of the Boston Globe reads the headline, "Bird closes Celtics book on championship season." The words, courtesy of then-beat writer Bob Ryan, told a tale of quite a turnaround.
"Two years ago," the story began, "the Celtics looked closer to petitioning for a spot in the Bay State League than competing for another NBA championship. But that was one Bill Fitch and Larry Bird ago ... "
The front page hangs inside the Four's Bar and Grill, a Boston institution and the spot-on barometer for sporting accomplishments. It's just across the street from the Celtics' current home court, the TD Banknorth Garden. The bar is a place where Bird and the boys used to throw a few back and members of the current Celtics front office sometimes stop by. Its walls are covered in local sports memorabilia.
You can find jerseys from Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish, the only true "Big Three" as far as anyone here is concerned and the core of Boston's group that won three banners in the 1980s. You can't miss the Red Sox gear that has only grown with the two recent World Series titles. And proving that it's not all about the old stuff, there's a Tom Brady jersey centerpieced just behind the bar, a tribute to the New England Patriots quarterback with three Super Bowl rings.
What you can't find is anything honoring Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen or Paul Pierce, the new Celtics trio that has been nearly flawless since the blockbuster offseason trades brought them together. Despite their league-best 24-3 record heading into Saturday night's game at EnergySolutions Arena against the Utah Jazz, there are no pictures, autographs or even a used sweatband. The restaurant's owner, Peter Colton, diplomatically explains his decision by noting that they haven't accomplished anything of real significance yet.
It would be one thing if Colton was alone in this point, considering he is no more than an unofficial mouthpiece for the team's fan base. But for all the hype that has come with the Celtics' fast start, the team itself is operating with the same mentality.
Garnett, whose Hall of Fame-caliber career has been revitalized after he was so reluctant to leave Minnesota, claims he never actually knows what his team's record is until reporters tell him.
Wyc Grousbeck, a majority owner and part of the local group that bought the Celtics in 2002, is elated with the quick chemistry but cautions that "it's early yet." Danny Ainge, whose seat as general manager would've been increasingly hot during these last few futile seasons if not for his close ties to then-senior assistant Auerbach, isn't quite ready to be deemed "Executive of the Year" unless it continues into April.
"I don't get overly excited about a good start," Ainge said. "I'm glad that it's working, glad that the players are getting along and they're coachable and seem to have great chemistry. Now we just need to get better. We're looking to have a good finish, and they need to get better."
"All three of us have to have an ego to opposing teams, and at the same time none of us can have an ego with each other," said Allen, who was acquired in a trade with Seattle last offseason. "We haven't had any problems. There are moments when Kevin might say, 'I want the ball in the post on a chest pass instead of a bounce pass,' or times when I miss him or times when he misses me, but we know everybody's got good intentions out there. ... Nobody on this team is selfish, so we all know everybody is trying to make the right plays for everybody else."
The only record that really matters in Boston these days is the one that leads to championships. Although they're back on the front page in Boston, there's more to do yet before they grace the walls at Four's.
"What they were doing there for a while was just awful to watch," said Colton, the Four's owner. "But now there's no more people saying: 'Hey, I can't use these tickets. Do you need tickets?' And no one wants them. 'Tickets? Who wants tickets? No thanks, I've got something better to do.' It's fun again."